My work involves people and ideas, performance, prose, poetry, objects and archives. The beauty of such a diversity of work is that there isn’t, and never can be, an unquestioned uniformity about any of the processes or outputs; they are necessarily contextual and evolving.
If journalism writes the headlines which become history – then poetry is the deep dive, alive and kicking, packing emotional punch with intellectual heft; It’s the human soul speaking.
Drama, literature, or poetry; in my mind the principle stands that human creativity carries truths about our condition.
Art and creativity go beyond headlines
Human acts of creation speak from the human soul far better than journalism ever can. In my view they are as worthy of historical record as journalism, precisely because they go deeper. In fact I’d go further and say they are more worthy of inclusion in the historical record than journalism, a field riddled with biases and lop-sided views masked in objectivity and problematic ideas about a self-awarded neutrality.
As an aside, if journalism writes the headlines which become history, that’s also a stunningly solid argument for a more diverse pool of journalists.
“The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Other Tales
The work of creation, but also of contextualisation, needs to be continuous. Each generation must understand what came before, and absorb that knowledge, so that it can face the future.
The monolithic approach to presenting histories limits identities, and possibilities.
For example, the history of the first members of a diaspora generation doesn’t necessarily reflect the lived experiences of its descendants.
We see that tension in the Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities around us. Generations born here have markedly different experiences to their parent’s or grandparent’s generations, those who first came here.
That’s also true of indigenous people. Is the generation of today aged 25 to 35 identical to those from that age bracket 30 years prior? Of course not. So why assume it of other identities?
Life experiences create different ways of looking at the world, and different ways of making demands of it; these are rarely monolithic, but individual, and personal.
By way of example, are those first generations say, South or East Asian in Britain, while their descendants might be better described South or East Asian British? Probably, for some.
We know that in order to make the future, we must understand how the past shapes the present.
Sometimes that process can also be about unlearning. Or, as is increasingly being discussed, decolonising.
Why should we look to the past? Well, there’s nowhere else to look is there?
Which brings me to archives and the way we arrive at them.
If we know our history, we can start examining what they contain from various perspectives. How welcome to have the perspective of thinkers and events that were disturbed by European invasions, for example, alongside those from the same cultures’ descendants.
We should ‘play’ with archives. The joy of this approach is that in breaking ‘rules’, many of which have no connection to the culture being examined, and even less so to its artefacts, we start to create and converse with those cultural products.
So it is with history.
We can and should explore it from diverse perspectives so that we can see it afresh, and learn from it.
The future isn’t just a blank screen on to which we project things based on assumptions or ways of seeing things as they are now.
The past has clues for us.
If we pay attention to it, it can help us dislodge those assumptions, especially the ones we are blind to, and offer new ways of seeing. In an age where Artificial Intelligence is touted as the future, should we really be writing the biases and boundaries of knowledge for all according to the limits of tech savants in Silicon Valley?
As artists and creatives we are ekstasis – we stand aside, or even outside, the status quo. That is as it should be; separation enables us to see things differently, perhaps even clearly.
For there to be a rebirth, or a renewal, there must be a taking stock.
Many of us have used 2020 for exactly that.
Now, we’re getting organised.
The battles have not gone away.
A ‘normal’ built on a parasitic exploitation of marginalised groups is not what most of us want to return to. If that’s what you want, then you need to check yourself.